Painted Dog Conservation Artisans
What do you think this is made from? Copper? Barbed wire (getting closer)…
They’re actually deadly snares transformed into beautiful works of art! The snare traps are removed from the African landscape by Perth Zoo’s conservation partner, Painted Dog Conservation Inc. (PDC Inc.)
Not only do the sale of these products help save wildlife, they also create a livelihood for local artisans in Zimbabwe, helping foster a greater appreciation for one of Africa’s most persecuted carnivores, the African Painted Dog, one of the many victims of the snares.
This week, Perth Zoo welcomed Wendy Blakely from one of PDC Inc’s supported projects. Walking in to the Zoo shop, she exclaimed: “I know who made that wire elephant statue,… ohhhhh that’s my best friend (pointing to a Zimbabwean artist featured on a poster about SnareWare) He’d get such a kick out of that!”
It’s a project that has literally changed animal and human lives, with the support of John Lemon, Perth Zoo Curator and Founder of PDC Inc.
In 2003, John founded the organisation to save the African Painted Dog from extinction, along with community education programs
In an effort to further engage locals, Wendy came on board to be a Community Arts Coordinator in Zimbabwe.
Wendy worked at a civil law firm in the USA, but always had an interest in African culture. Before being recruited, she was already determined to work with local communities, helping them conserve their wildlife and culture.
Despite having no background in arts and crafts, Wendy has built a strong relationship with many artisans in Zimbabwe, giving them a sense of pride for their own unique skills.
The program provides the space, materials, tools and marketing for talented artisans who produce high quality handmade products.
Every year, artisans are also taken on a tour of a local game reserve to allow them to see some of the native animals that many of them have not seen before. This helps them in creating their animal themed art works.
Items range from woven baskets, wooden carvings, hand dyed bags and most noteworthy, SnareWare.
Snare traps collected by anti-poaching patrols are collected and once received by Wendy’s team they are burnt in a huge bonfire. This softens the wires allowing artisans to shape them into a variety of products and animal ornaments, some decorated with beads.
The artisans are payed for their artworks and then Wendy’s team coordinates for them to be exported to specialty stores and clients.
Fundamentally, this program has provided locals with an alternative source of income, reducing the number of locals that may have sadly turned to poaching to feed their families, whilst decreasing snare traps in the wild.
Some of the SnareWare products can be found at our own shop, Zoonique. The purchase of these items helps support a livelihood for the African artisans and the work of PDC Inc.
“It has given the locals a sense of pride for their skills and their culture,” Wendy said.
“It has also led them to value and appreciate their native animals, including the African Painted Dog,” said John.